Besides meaty arms, the pectorals are probably the best of the "showy" body parts. Somewhere in time (oddly enough at the same time as the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger), the chest became the ultimate sign of manhood. Thick pecs give a three dimensional look to the upper body, and a well-defined chest makes your torso look like an old Roman soldier's breastplate.

The following chest specialization program will focus on building not only that large "breastplate," but complete pecs. Remember that sheer size isn't enough; a muscle group must be developed in its entirety.

Thibaudeau-Chest

The Program

Let's take a look at this long-awaited program, shall we?

Training Split

  • Monday: Chest (thickness)
  • Tuesday: Quads/Hamstrings/Calves (low volume)
  • Wednesday: Chest (width)
  • Thursday: OFF/Abs
  • Friday: Chest (upper portion)
  • Saturday: Back/Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps (low volume)
  • Sunday: OFF/Abs

As we mentioned in the previous specialization articles, the non-targeted muscle groups (anything but pectorals in this program) are trained using a low volume of work: one or two exercises for three sets per muscle group is enough to avoid losing what you have and even gain some if you work hard enough on those 3-6 sets.

Monday – Chest (Thickness/Heavy Weights)

A. (Heavy Exercise) Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Sets: 6
  • Reps: 1 x 7, 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 7, 1 x 5, 1 x 3
  • Special Technique: none
  • Notes: At the top, squeeze your pecs hard, trying to reach for the ceiling with your hands
  • Rest Intervals: 90 seconds

B1. (Post-Fatigue Exercise #1) Decline Bench Press

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 6 to 8
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and low position double contraction
  • Notes: Lift the bar from chest to mid-range, lower it back to the chest, lift it to full extension. This is one rep.
  • Rest Intervals: none (post-fatigue superset)

B2. Two-position Cable Crossover

Two-position Cable Crossover
Two-position Cable Crossover
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8 to 10 to high position, then 8 to 10 to low position
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and peak contraction
  • Notes: Squeeze the pectorals hard at the peak contraction for 3-4 sec.
  • Rest Intervals: 90 sec.

C. (Special Exercise) Combo Dumbbell/Cable Press

Combo Dumbbell/Cable Press
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10 to 12
  • Special Technique: none
  • Notes: Attach each arm to the low-pulley station with the ankle straps
  • Rest Intervals: 60 sec.

D. (100 Reps Set) Half (peak) reps on pec deck

  • Sets: 1
  • Reps: 100
  • Special Technique: none
  • Notes: Only perform the last half of the movement (from mid-range to peak contraction)
  • Rest Intervals: N/A

Wednesday – Chest (Width)

A. (Heavy Exercise) Wide-Grip Bench Press to Neck

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 6 to 8
  • Special Technique: None
  • Notes: Take a wide grip, lower the bar to the base of the neck, flare the elbows out
  • Rest Intervals: 90 sec.

B1. (Post-Fatigue Exercise #1) Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8 to 10
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and low position double contraction
  • Notes: Lift the bar from chest to mid-range, lower it back to the chest, lift it to full extension. This is one rep. Flare elbows out on the way down.
  • Rest Intervals: none (post-fatigue superset)

B2. (Post-Fatigue Exercise #2) Half Dumbbell Flye

Half Dumbbell Flye
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10 to 12
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and 303 tempo
  • Notes: Aim for a maximum stretch on each rep and never take the tension off of your pecs.
  • Rest Intervals: 90 sec.

C. (Special Exercise) Combo Concentric Dumbbell Press/Eccentric Dumbbell Flye

Combo Concentric Dumbbell Press/Eccentric Dumbbell Flye
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10 to 12
  • Special Technique: Slow eccentric (negative): 501 tempo
  • Notes: Lift the dumbbells as an explosive press and lower it as a slow flye
  • Rest Intervals: 60 sec.

D. (100 Reps Set) Half (Stretch) Reps on pec Deck

  • Sets: 1
  • Reps: 100
  • Special Technique: none
  • Notes: Only perform the first half of the movement (from stretch to mid-range)
  • Rest Intervals: N/A

Friday – Chest (Upper Portion)

A. (Heavy) Incline Barbell Press

  • Sets: 5
  • Reps: 5 + max + max (see special technique and note)
  • Special Technique: Extended 5s
  • Notes: Perform 5 reps to failure (or near failure), rest for 10 seconds, perform as many additional reps as possible, rest for 15 seconds, perform a few more reps. Aim for a total of 10-12 reps.
  • Rest Intervals: 120 seconds

B1. (Post-Fatigue Exercise #1) Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8 to 10
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and low position double contraction
  • Notes: Lift the bar from low-position to mid-range, lower it back down, lift it to full extension. This is one rep. Flare elbows out as much as possible on the way down.
  • Rest Intervals: none (post-fatigue superset)

B2. (Post-Fatigue Exercise #2) Incline Cable Flye

Incline Cable Flye
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10 to 12
  • Special Technique: Post-fatigue and 2 second peak contraction
  • Notes: Squeeze your pecs by exerting force inward and toward the ceiling in the peak contraction position.
  • Rest Intervals: 90 sec.

C. (Special Exercise) Combo Concentric Cable Press/Eccentric Cable Flye

Combo Concentric Cable Press/Eccentric Cable Flye
  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10 to 12
  • Special Technique: Slow eccentric, 501 tempo
  • Notes: Lift the weight as an explosive press and lower it as a slow flye.
  • Rest Intervals: 60 sec.

D. (100 Reps Set) Machine Incline Press

  • Sets: 1
  • Reps: 100
  • Special Technique: None
  • Notes: You can take pauses if needed, but try not to.
  • Rest Intervals: N/A

Conclusion

As with any specialization program, you'll see the biggest gains after you switch to a regular program, not during the specialization phase itself. Don't get me wrong, you'll get some growth during the phase, but most of the good stuff will happen once you reduce your chest training volume to a normal amount.

This is due to a rebound effect which will lead to a turbo-charged growth phase. For that reason, I suggest sticking to a specialization phase for no more than four weeks; more than that and you risk overtraining your chest and you won't get such a big rebound effect because your adaptive energy will be used to get you out of that localized overtraining state.

Happy chest building!